Making a film poem

This time last year, I talked to my pal and collaborator Steve Smart about making another film together. Over the last couple of years we’ve worked on ‘Foraging’ about the way I find the trees which inspire my work and ‘Connecting’, which show how I get to know their individual characters through drawing. He created two beautiful short films which you can see here.

Tansy Lee Moir drawing at Marchmont residency

Steve’s new vision was to capture elements of my work as a film poem,


Completing the Marchmont commission

Reunion triptych charcoal drawing for Marchmont House collection
‘Reunion I, II, III’ Charcoal on panel, 110 x 210cm Photo by Steve Smart

Thinking about ‘Reunion’

I generally prefer to leave room for other people to make their own interpretations of my work but thought that, since ‘Reunion’ won’t be on public display for a little while, I would share some images and try to articulate what it might mean to me.


Setting up the Old Squash Court at Marchmont

The exterior of the Old Squash Court at Marchmont House Scotland

Inside the studio

I’m always fascinated by the way artists’ set up their studios, it’s like looking inside their heads. You get a glimpse into their thought processes and creative routines, see how the way they organise their space relates to the work they produce.

While I was on residency at Marchmont House, Steve Smart helped me to document my temporary studio in the Old Squash Court, so I could let you have a look round inside my head.


A 360 degree view

The Old Squash Court was refurbished for Marchmont Makers Foundation a few years ago to create a beautifully light and spacious studio and exhibition venue for visiting artists. If I were to describe my dream studio it would look very much like this and it was a fantastic place to stretch creatively.

See for yourself here…

Read more about my Marchmont commission here.





Ghosts for Marchmont

Where the ‘Ghosts’ came from

They began with a strange moment of recognition; an ailing beech found on a walk seeming to contain something figurative beyond the visible. Once I’d seen this I couldn’t unsee it – pareidolia was at work.

Philpstoun ghost beech by Tansy Lee MoirWhen I first started this series way back in 2012-13 I called them ‘Ghosts’ because they carried memories and echoes of things I couldn’t quite grasp on a conscious level, but sincerely wanted to connect with. For me, these works had a dark energy and a bittersweet mix of emotions behind them. The art was a way of expressing something I couldn’t do any other way and it’s quite difficult to write about even now. Their mystery was always appealing to both myself and the collectors who ultimately chose them.


Trees of Marchmont 5

The Sweeping Beech

drawing of a tree or figure by Tansy Lee Moir

My work is often linked to dance and there’s a common language in the way I draw trees and the human figure. Life drawing, in particular drawing movement has always been a part of my practice, which is why I’m excited to be collaborating with performance artist Suzi Cunningham and film poet Steve Smart on a short film bringing these threads together. Steve and I will be doing some filming while I’m on residency at Marchmont in June.

I found this dancing tree in the grounds of Marchmont House. There’s an 18th century elegance to it, with a graceful sweep of skirt above the hint of a bodice. If you look closely there’s also extensive scarring around the base, most likely from bark damage by grazing animals. In the time I spent with the tree that day I saw hares, roe deer and lots of sheep, so perhaps it’s a favourite spot for the nibblers.

As the sun tracked around the sky, I returned to the tree several times to get images in different lights. I don’t know yet which angles I’ll choose for the drawings – those decisions will come during my time in The Old Squash Court. The tree will tell me.

Read the full Marchmont story here.


Trees of Marchmont 4

A wounded beech

a beech tree trunk in sunshine

I was on the hunt for ghosts. Not the most obvious of days for a ghost hunt – bright spring sunshine, birds singing their little hearts out and all the greenness getting ready to burst. However, I was excited by the possibilities the day’s light held for photography. I like to take reference photos in both clear sunshine and soft overcast light, as the combination helps me understand the tree’s form, along with drawing as the primary tool. Today was a day for sharp contrasts.


Trees of Marchmont 2

The Quarry veteran

When I was first commisioned to make charcoal drawings for the Marchmont collection, I was given a map which owner Hugo Burge had annotated with some of his favourite estate trees.

a gnarly beech tree

On one of my research trips to the Scottish Borders, Hugo’s map guided me to a cluster of rather mangled beeches at the edge of an old quarry.